“Are you excited?” Lydia, my best friend since kindergarten practically screams. I turn my face to look at her, shielding my eyes with my hand. I look her up and down, the sparkle of her golden heels catching the late afternoon sun and nearly blinding me. Lydia is dressed to impress. I however didn’t care enough to dress fancy today, especially when it’s going to be a high of 98 degrees and for the second fact that graduation is on the football field. There was no way that I was going to ruin a good pair of heels walking around on this turf.
The seniors are all gathered in line on the extensive Chaparral High School football field. In late June the weather in Scottsdale is pretty damn brutal, most days reaching the high 90′s. We’re all standing around uncomfortably, our gowns sticking to us with every move.
Screaming, excited families fill every single spot up in the stands. I gaze up at the blur of people, but the sun makes it it near impossible to make out a single face.
Lydia seems to pick up on my unease because she tiptoes even closer to me and bumps me with her hip.
“Everything will be fine, you know.” She says in a hushed whisper just as Principle Weinstein walks up to the makeshift stage and grabs the mic. The microphone protests with a long hiss, leaving everyone groaning until the annoyance dissipates.
“Hello everyone. I’m sure all, or at least most of you know who I am- but for those who don’t I am Phil Weinstein. Chaparral High School’s principle. From the bottom of my heart, I’d like to welcome you all to the Chaparral graduation of 2016! Now, before we start calling names and handing out diplomas I’d like if we could all stand up and give a big Puma growl for our soon to be Graduates!” Before Principle Weinstein can even finish, the whole crowd erupts in the most audacious and cheerful growl I’ve ever heard. I can’t hold back the laugh as he turns and gives us all a delightfully jolly smile and a big thumbs up.
“Now, ladies and gentlemen here we go!” He concludes before starting off on his introductions and then the diploma ceremony.
Everyone, including Lydia is starting to get antsy. She’s standing a few people behind me tapping her foot incessantly on the turf, letting out annoyed huffs of breath. “Why must we have so many kids in our graduating class?” She groans and throws her head back dramatically. “Some of us have places to be and people to see.” This gets me to laugh.
“Chill, dude. Your lover boy will be waiting for you with a HUGE bouquet of flowers at the finish line, don’t you worry your pretty little heart.” I call back, teasing her.
Lydia rolls her eyes and crosses her arms in front of her chest. “Whatever you say, momma Charlie.” With that, Lydia lets a wide grin spread across her lips, mocking me back, and now it’s my turn to roll my eyes.
Principle Weinstein is hardly to the letter G. Graduation really is going to take forever. I look over at the crowd once again, the sun shifting positions and becoming a little less potent. I scan across the faces, finding Isaac Lydia’s brother and my other best friend as well as his and Lydia’s family all sitting there with smiles on their faces as they try to pick us out of the crowd. I offer a wave and continue scanning. No sight of my mom or my boyfriend waiting for me with a big bouquet of flowers. I let a sigh break free from my lips as I reach into the pocket of my shorts and fish out my cellphone. Holding it down at waist level I tap the screen to wake it up.
There’s two missed calls and three text messages. I bite my lip and see that the missed calls are from my mother, also a text from her, the other two text messages being from my boyfriend Gavin. I take in a big gulp of air before opening Gavin’s message thread first.
Can’t come to dinner tonight. Totally forgot the boys planned a beach trip. We will be back by the end of the weekend.
Then an hour later.
Oh and congrats. Xoxo
I can feel the tears stinging my eyes, it’s humiliating that he’d rather go on a beach trip with his friends- which they can do whenever, instead of coming to see me graduate, which only happens once. But, as tempting as it is to cry I push the tears back and open up the message from my mom.
Pick up coffee on your way home.
Fucking typical Momma Ramsay move. I roll my eyes as the sadness now morphs into anger. She probably forgot that today is one of the most important days of my life. No big deal, she’s probably having a wonderful time with her longtime and favorite companions Jack and/or Johnny.
I feel like throwing my phone or smashing it to pieces but I just slide it back into my shorts pocket and ball my hands into fists, my fingernails digging crescent moons into my palms. I’m furious at this point and Lydia must see my body stiffen because she comes close and wraps her arms around my waist, resting her head on my shoulder.
“What’s wrong Charlie dear?” She asks in a horrible British accent.
“Oh nothing, just the usual.” I roll my eyes.
“I see.” I turn and see the sadness etched across her beautiful features. I hate when people take pity on me, so I turn away.
“At this point I’m just so used to it, why should I care? I just was hoping that today of all days they’d come and be by my side.” I shrug my shoulders.
Lydia sighs and hugs me tight. “Well, your mom is one thing. You can’t pick family... But why stay with Gavin if he makes you so unhappy?” She asks carefully. Lydia doesn’t know the extent of how miserable I am with Gavin, or how scared I am of what would happen if I ever left Gavin, or even how frightened I am just being with him.
I shrug my shoulders again and ignore her question. “I just wish they cared.” Is the only reply I can muster.
Lydia gives me a tender kiss on the cheek. “Well you know my family and I love you more than anything, Charlie. Ok? Don’t forget that.” And with that Lydia retreats to her spot in line.
I hold the diploma in my hand, just staring at it. I’ve worked so hard and here I am. The day has finally come, high school is finally over. A smile creeps up on me before I tuck the diploma under my arm and follow Lydia and her family out to the parking lot.
“Charlie, sweetie are you coming to dinner with us?” Lydia’s mother Erin asks me as we get into their SUV. I sit there my head running a fucking marathon as Erin’s question goes in one ear and out the other.
Lydia rolls her eyes and nudges me out of my thoughts. “Yes mom, of course she’s coming.”
I sink down in my seat as Lydia’s dad Henry slides the key into the ignition and turns it over.
The drive to the restaurant would normally only take ten minutes but with graduation traffic it takes us almost a half hour to get across town and park. Lydia’s boyfriend Nathan is there already when we arrive. He strides over to Lydia and pulls her in, giving her a passionate kiss. I watch them as they look at each other, and hold each other, happiness leaking out of their pores. I can’t decide if it makes me jealous or if it disgusts me. Isaac nudges me in passing before he grabs hold of my arm and pulls me away and into the restaurant.
“What was that?” He asks me as we walk into the brisk lounge.
I shrug and start messing with a piece of rogue string on my shirt. “Nothing, I was just admiring how cute of a couple they are.” I say, forcing a smile but he doesn’t look convinced.
“Charlie,” He says laying a tender hand on my arm. “You know you can talk to me about anything right, and if you’re not happy with...” He tries to say but I cut him off. I’ve already gotten this speech once today, I didn’t need a repeat.
I know they worry about me, but I can’t tell them everything or else they’d have even more of a reason to worry and I don’t want to put that stress on their shoulders. I got myself into this mess and I will have to find a way to get myself out of it.
“Relax, Isaac. I’m fine.” I fake my confidence. “You’re reading way too into it, Nancy Drew.” I let out a clipped laugh.
He studies me for a moment before deciding it’s best to just drop it as Lydia and Nathan walk in and join us, still attached at the hip.
We all sit down at the table and everyone erupts into conversation. However, I can’t seem to get out of my own head long enough to engage. A couple of times throughout the night, I catch myself staring at Lydia and Nathan’s hands entangled together and by the second time, my appetite is completely ruined.